U.S. stocks wiped out earlier losses and turned higher in volatile trading Thursday as the market tried to rebound from a two-day losing streak.
The S&P 500 traded 0.4% higher, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 200 points after losing as much as 348 points. The Nasdaq Composite also turned 0.2% higher as some major technology stocks reserved losses. Tesla rose 1.4%, while Apple and Alphabet both traded in the green.
Stocks that tied to a successful economic reopening such as airlines and cruise line operators led the late-day rebound. American Airlines and United gained about 4% each, which Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival rose 2.8% and 3.7%, respectively. Boeing climbed 3%.
The market experienced some weakness earlier in the day as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell hinted at one day starting to remove the stimulus that has boosted the market during the pandemic.
“As we make substantial further progress toward our goals, we’ll gradually roll back the amount of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities we’ve bought,” Powell told NPR’s “Morning Edition.” “We will very gradually over time and with great transparency, when the economy has all but fully recovered, we will be pulling back the support that we provided during emergency times.”
The three major averages are still all on track to post a losing week, with the S&P 500 and the Dow falling 1% each. The Nasdaq has fallen more than 2% this week. The S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow hit their record highs last week.
Oil prices fell about 4% Thursday as demand concerns rekindled with fresh coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. The S&P 500 energy sector slid more than 2%.
Bond yields continued to decline from recent highs. The 10-year Treasury yield dipped 1 basis point to 1.62%, falling for a fourth day after the rate hit a 14-month high last week.
Investors pored over a better-than-expected reading on weekly jobless claims. The Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment insurance totaled 684,000 for the week ended March 20, lower than an estimate of 735,000 from economists surveyed by Dow Jones.
“The signs of strength from today’s jobless claims read may actually have a perverse effect on the broader market,” said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E-Trade. “Meaning that if we continue to see the labor market make strides, this could translate into pressure on equities and on the Fed to reassess its accommodative stance.”
The tech-heavy Nasdaq has been the relative underperformer with a flat return this year, compared to the S&P 500’s 3% rise. Some investors have been taking profits in their growth winners which led the market’s rebound from the pandemic losses last year.
Netflix has fallen 6.8% this month, while Tesla is down about 6%. Pandemic winner Zoom Video has dropped 16% in March.
“The weakness in technology stocks is undeniable, but it likely won’t be a straight line down for the sector and there will be zigs and zags along the way,” said David Bahnsen, chief investment officer at The Bahnsen Group. “Tech stock valuations are too high and are screaming for a correction.”